Chuck Schumer’s deal with the devil

Chuck Schumer’s deal with the devil
© Greg Nash

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE made a deal with the devil Monday. 

When you play high stakes poker, you got, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers "to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em." Schumer held a very strong hand but he folded Monday when he agreed to support a deal to keep the federal government open until Feb. 8 and left immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age in political purgatory. 

Schumer was in the driver's seat in his game of chicken with Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE. Schumer had lots of leverage and let it slip away.

ADVERTISEMENT

Last week Senate Democrats were holding out for full protection for the Dreamers but settled for a vague promise to discuss the crisis. Even if the Senate does debate a bill in the next few weeks to protects the Dreamers, there is nothing in the resolution that holds Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to his promise to schedule a vote. And even if there is a vote to protect the Dreamers, there's no guarantee Donald Trump will sign it. 

The minority leader had lots of leverage but he let it slip away. Schumer was holding at least a couple of aces. If he had played his hand and waited a week, instead of folding, he might have won. He had the president and the GOP majorities in Congress cornered because of the public pressure to protect the Dreamers and the blame that Americans would have laid on the GOP for the shutdown.

If Schumer had waited a few days, Republicans might have folded and bowed to the public pressure to keep the government open and protect the dreamers. But now, we'll never know because the senator from New York let Trump and the Senate majority leader off the hook. The Dreamers are now at the tender mercies of the Republican Party.

These are the cards that the Schumer had to play. His hand was stronger than McConnell's but it doesn't matter because he didn't play his hand.

A national survey conducted last week by ABC News showed Americans blamed the government shutdown on the terrible trio of Republicans: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE, McConnell and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (48 percent) who control the federal government. Only one in four people (28 percent) blamed Democrats. Schumer let the three Republicans and the GOP off the hook. 

Democrats had public opinion behind them but failed to use it as leverage. A national poll conducted last week by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News showed Americans overwhelmingly supported a government fix to protect the Dreamers. Nine in every 10 (87 percent) Americans wanted a deal to protect the young immigrants.

Democrats have a chance to score a big win in the November midterm congressional elections. But victory in midterms is very much a function of turnout and bailing on DACA may weaken the resolve of Hispanics to vote. With an eye towards the base voters who make up the Democratic primary electorate six of the 16 Democrats who voted against the bill were 2020 presidential aspirants. The Democratic presidential hopefuls who stood up for the Dreamers were Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker vows to form White House office on abortion rights 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE, Karen Gillibrand, Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights Harris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers MORE, Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyIraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran Trump officials say US efforts to deter Iran have worked Connecticut radio station rebrands itself 'Trump 103.3' MORE, Bernie SandersBernie SandersIraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights Harris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers MORE.

Schumer should have remembered the words of John F. Kennedy: “You cannot negotiate with people who say what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable.” Schumer gave into Republicans who wanted to take it all without giving anything up.

Schumer has done a remarkable job holding Senate Democrats together in votes against the Trump tax plan and TrumpCare. I understand the majority leader's commitment to continuing to fund the Child Health Insurance Program. But in this case Trump gave up lots and got little in return.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (There is no relation to Trump adviser Stephen Bannon). He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics. Contact him at brad@bannoncr.com